Northeastern Passage to India


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Northeastern Passage to India. The Dutch had large commercial interests in the East Indies. The Dutch East India Company was formed in 1602, and the establishment of similar companies to trade with the West Indies had been suggested by William Usselinx, of Antwerp. The Dutch had watched with interest the efforts of the English and others to find a northwest passage to India; but Linschooten, the eminent Dutch geographer, believed that a more feasible passage was to be found around the north of Europe. There was a general belief in Holland that there was an open polar sea, where perpetual summer reigned, and that a happy, cultivated people existed there. To find these people and this northeastern marine route to India WILLIAM BARENTZ, a pilot of Amsterdam, sailed (June, 1594), with four vessels furnished by the government and several cities of the Netherlands, for the Arctic seas. Barentz's vessel became separated from the rest. He reached and explored Nova Zembla. The vessels all returned before the winter. Linschooten had accompanied one of the ships, and remained firm in his belief in the feasibility of a northeast passage. Another expedition sent in the summer of 1595 was an utter failure. A third, in 1596, under Barentz and others, penetrated the polar waters beyond the eightieth parallel, and discovered and landed upon Spitzbergen. Two of the vessels rounded Nova Zembla, where they were ice-bound until the next year, their crews suffering terribly. Barentz died in his boat in June, 1597, just at the beginning of the polar summer. His companions escaped and returned. Nothing more was attempted in this direction until the Dutch sent HENRY HUDSON, in 1609, to search for a northeast passage to India. It remained for a Swedish explorer to make the passage in a steamship in 1879, passing from the Arctic seas into the Pacific Ocean, through Bering Strait.




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